Dallas Cowboys

Three reasons why the Cowboys’ season came to an ugly end

Dak Prescott talks about end of Cowboys’ season after loss to Rams

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott talks about their defeat to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL playoffs.
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Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott talks about their defeat to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL playoffs.

The day after the Dallas Cowboys’ season came to an ugly end, the locker room at The Star was empty.

The team’s last availability of the season didn’t offer much in the way of player reaction to Saturday’s 30-22 divisional playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Only a few players were available, including safety Jeff Heath, who tried his best to explain how the Rams dominated the Cowboys’ defense like few other teams did in 2018. Only one team gained more yards than the Rams’ 459 (Texans’ 462) against the Dallas defense and no team has rushed for more yards against the Cowboys in seven years.

The three biggest Dallas disappointments from Saturday’s loss:

1. Defensive line letdown

The biggest surprise of the night was just how dominating the Rams’ offensive line was against the Cowboys’ defensive line. Quarterback Jared Goff was pressured one time the entire game and that was linebacker Jaylon Smith. Dallas’ defensive line was overwhelmed. Defensive end and team sack leader DeMarcus Lawrence had three tackles, including one for a loss, but was largely a non-factor. The Rams rushed for 273 yards, the most Dallas has allowed since the Redskins had 274 on Dec. 30, 2012.

2. Dak didn’t run

Perhaps their first possession did them no favors in the long run. The Cowboys scored quickly on a seven-play drive when Amari Cooper took a pass over the middle 29 yards for a touchdown. Their next four possessions ended in punts and only once did they get into Rams’ territory. Dak Prescott only ran the ball twice and those didn’t come until late in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys lost all four games Prescott rushed two or fewer times in ‘18.

3. Star linebackers dimmed

The Cowboys’ star linebackers did not force their will on the Rams. If anything, they were pushed around. Rookie Leighton Vander Esch had only four tackles, tied for his fewest since becoming a starter. Jaylon Smith led the team with nine tackles, including the lone quarterback hurry of the game. But it was far from a dominating performance. Sean Lee played more than he had in the previous month but didn’t fare much better.

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.